We are sharing stories about Johnny Crawford from his friends and fans. If you’d like to submit a story, please use the email on our Contact page. It can be about meeting Johnny, working with him, seeing him perform, or about how his work has touched your life.
He Came To Visit Me
by Tom Turner (now in Northern California)
I met Johnny Crawford in the summer of 1965. I grew up in Wakefield, MA, a suburb of Boston. Johnny was appearing at Pleasure Island, a local amusement park. I was 14 years old. I was in a body cast, recovering from back surgery. Johnny came to my home to visit me. What a thrill for me, for my cousins, and for all the kids in the neighborhood!
I’ve attached a copy of an article from a local newspaper published the day after Johnny’s visit. To this day, I share this newspaper article with friends because I think it is an interesting story. I also want to show them that Johnny was a kind person and a nice guy who came to visit me during my recuperation.
I recently celebrated my 70th birthday. I am forever grateful to Johnny Crawford for giving me a memory that I cherish.
I offer my deepest sympathy to Johnny’s wife, Charlotte McKenna Crawford and to all of Johnny’s family.
In My Wildest Dreams
by Susan Pino (from Massachusetts)
I first met Johnny Crawford in 1965 when he was in my hometown (Agawam, MA) for a performance at a great little amusement park called Riverside Park.
A friend of mine who worked for a local TV station was asked to meet with Johnny and record some audio promos for his TV show The Rifleman. He asked me to join him. I was beyond excited that I would meet Johnny. I was a big fan of his music and loved watching him as Mark McCain on The Rifleman. We went to the inn where he was staying to do the recordings. The first thing I noticed was how handsome he was. He had such a warm and welcoming personality, and he made you feel so comfortable. His dad was traveling with him, and I could see where Johnny got his good looks.
We spent a little more than an hour with them, thoroughly enjoying our conversation. (Well, at least we did and we hope they did as well!) Suddenly, Johnny went to his luggage and took out a photo and autographed it for me. I was so surprised because of course I hadn’t asked for one. It made the photo even more special.
Fast forward to a year later, August 1966. Johnny was 20 and I was 19. I heard Johnny was coming back to Agawam to give three performances at Riverside Park. He came up from Long Island where he was stationed in the army. With great regret I was unable to go to his first show due to a previous commitment. For his second performance I went a little early. I parked my car and walked around to the area behind the stage, and he was standing there. I was so happy when he remembered me. A newspaper reporter saw us greet each other and asked if we had met before. He asked if he could take a picture of us posing with a script of the show. The picture and a very nice article were in the next morning’s paper.
I watched Johnny’s performance and he was fantastic. He sang every one of his hit songs. The crowd cheered after each song. Johnny has long been active with the rodeo, so he displayed some of his roping techniques. And last but not least, he played the harmonica—purchased by someone in the park that day—to wild applause! He is a man of many talents. The crowd was just thrilled with his performance.
After the show, I was walking back to my car and Johnny was going by in a car with the talent manager from the Park. Johnny opened the window and asked if I would like to join them for lunch at a local restaurant. You can imagine my surprise and delight! So off we went. After eating, when we got in the car for the short drive back, the talent manager asked Johnny if he would like to use the car and perhaps have me show him around our picturesque little town. (My heart nearly stopped.)
So we dropped the gentleman off and started our little drive. I couldn’t believe this was really happening! I showed him around, and we actually stopped at my house, a couple of miles from the Park, so he could meet my parents and two brothers. We were all fans of The Rifleman. When I asked my six-year-old brother who Johnny was, he saw a grownup, not a kid, so naturally he thought it was Lucas McCain. We then explained that he had been watching movies of Mark McCain on The Rifleman when he was a boy and that now he is a grownup. Even though he was only six, my brother does remember that day.
Johnny was so gracious meeting my family, and you could see they were very taken with him. He was such a gentleman. I fondly remember my Dad and him chatting away as though they had known each other for years.
Johnny told us a cute story about traveling to Agawam the day before. He said he was on the Massachusetts Turnpike, which is a toll road. He didn’t have much cash on him, and he suddenly realized that he had to get off the Turnpike two exits early because he didn’t have enough money to go any further! Now that’s down-to-earth! The entire family has talked of our time with Johnny very often throughout the years.
Eventually we had to get back to the Park for his final show at 7 pm. We went to the trailer that was provided for the performers to dress and to relax in. He went in to change and when he came back out, he walked quickly over to me with a movie camera in his hand. He asked if I had ever used one before, and I could hear myself saying, “Oh, yes” when my mind was saying, “I have no idea how to use this.” He wanted me to film his performance! He showed me where to stand on the stage to do the filming. What a great view I had! I filmed the entire performance, praying the whole time that I was using the camera properly. I really couldn’t believe I said I had used a movie camera before, but it was like I couldn’t control what my mouth was saying! So to Johnny I say, “Johnny, I really hope the film of your performance that I made with your camera so long ago came out okay. Until this day, I have worried about that film!”
After the last performance, I met him at the trailer and returned his camera. We said goodbye and I thanked him for making my day. And he thanked me for introducing him to my family. That was just incredible to me, and it says so much about how kind and thoughtful Johnny is and about the wonderful upbringing he had.
I have followed Johnny’s career over the years. As I read about his accomplishments with his dance orchestra, one of his many endeavors, I was just so amazed at his talent. And to see him in videos directing his orchestra brings me such joy—joy for him and joy for his whole family. He certainly has deserved to experience all good things in life.
I’d like to pause here to say that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get to meet Johnny and not only that, spend time with him. What a wonderful memory that is for me.
I forgot to mention that his performance at the Park in 1966 brought the biggest crowd ever – 10,000 people! That is just amazing for the little park. And I would also like to say thank you to Johnny for the years of The Rifleman we enjoyed so much and for the many other roles he played, and for being a fantastic role model for generations of kids.
After writing this story I have come to realize that Johnny Crawford isn’t only an actor, singer, musician and band leader, he is an American Treasure.
by Janice Snyder (from Texas)
Many of the outdoor scenes in Indian Paint were shot near our house in north central Texas. One of my best friend’s acreage was used for a lot of the scenes. My friend’s dad was part Indian as well as being an excellent horse rider. He was chosen to be one of the extras in some scenes.
There was a riding arena near the filming area, and we used it for weeknight practice for the various games we played on horseback. One night I was there practicing, and Johnny rode right by me. I greeted him, and we spoke for awhile. He gave me his autograph, and I was in teenage heaven for months after that.
Bridging the Gap
by Stephanie Kanoun (in Connecticut)
I was born to my parents late in life, so I never got to know my grandparents very well. One of my grandfathers had already passed on and the other developed dementia while I was young. When Poppop moved to a nursing home, I started feeling a sense of loss—that I would never know the things that a grandfather would teach you. Then I noticed the shows that he often watched in the nursing home. And I asked my dad what Poppop watched growing up. I thought maybe if I watched the things from his past, maybe I’d learn the things he would have said to me. I watched Andy Griffith, and Bonanza, and The Rifleman. The Rifleman immediately stood out to me and couldn’t get enough of it. I loved Lucas and Mark and I loved learning about Chuck and Johnny. I joined the Rifleman forum group and found a wonderful, loving online community to discuss the show and many other things. I listened to Johnny’s music and watched many of the shows he guest starred in.
All of my grandparents have now passed on, but I don’t feel lacking anymore. The creative works of Johnny (and so many others) have taught me valuable lessons that I can now carry and teach to my young family. Thank you, Johnny! <3
by Nancy Hovey (from Burbank and now Idaho)
The Crawford brothers kept their horses at Fred Bales Stables in Burbank. Johnny would train his horse in the arena there. One of my girlfriends kept her horse at the stables and some other girls I met at Fred Bales also had horses there, or at their nearby houses. I rode double with a lot of them. One friend of mine, in the weekly group I rode with, asked Johnny to go with her on a hayride we were having. He accepted, so she told him it was on Saturday night and gave him the time. Well, he wasn’t there on time, so our hayride started. My friend started to get all excited when from behind, a horse was galloping towards us with two fellows on it. Johnny was on the back of the horse, and when the horse got alongside our wagon, he reached out and jumped on! He kept his promise to her!
That’s how both Johnny and Bobby were. They were both very approachable. Every weekend I would hang out at the stables. One Saturday, we were having one of our Corral 17 horse shows (a lot of us were members, including Johnny). I’d seen Bobby ride in some of the shows on his horse Troy. On this particular day, I was standing at the end of the arena when Bobby rode over on Troy, and I guess he figured out that I didn’t have my own horse. He started talking to me and told me that before he got Troy he used to rent a horse named Glory from the stables he boarded at. She was a good horse. This meant so much to me, that a Crawford had a kind enough heart to give me this information. I usually just said hi to them and vice versa. This conversation with Bobby meant so much to me. I wish he knew how much it meant to me back then. I was probably 13 and now I am 72 but I’ll never forget his kind gesture! Those brothers were raised right. Do unto others as you would want them to do to you! My heart aches to think that Johnny might not remember those days.
Johnny is a very multi-talented cowboy. When I talked to him about 4 years ago on the phone, he told me that the feeling you get when sliding off your horse to reach for a steer’s horns is the best feeling ever. I was hoping to get him here for The Snake River Stampede held in July of each year, which is a PRCA Rodeo. He was already booked for something else. He said he would rather come here if he could. As it was getting close to the rodeo, the Board of Directors weren’t able to get a sponsor for him. They tried very hard, though. When I was talking to Johnny about the rodeo one day, he asked me if I knew of Dean Oliver, a many time All-Around Champion who Johnny said he heard was from Boise. Dean was inducted into 7 different halls of fame. I found out he was on the Board of Directors for the Stampede. Turns out the idol of many teenage girls had an idol, named Dean Oliver! I just never realized that idols have idols also!
Later, my family moved to Shadow Hills in Sunland. I was about 15 then. I joined Corral 20 which held monthly horse shows at Hansen Dam. My next-door neighbor had about 4 or 5 horses at any time that I could ride. Anyway, at those horse shows, Robert Fuller entered in some of them for the cow hide race. They would tie a cow hide (on the ground) to a rider’s saddle horn. When the rider galloped to the other end of the arena, the other person (in this case Bob) would grab the rope and jump to lay down on the cow hide and be pulled around the arena. It looked like fun but dangerous also. I saw him on a few occasions.
One other thing that Johnny did for me was when I was 12. I really think Carmen Dirigo (Hollywood hairstylist and president of Corral 17) may have gotten in touch with him to make this happen. My hip fell apart, and I was in St. Joseph’s Hospital for 2 weeks. When I received my mail one day, there was a large-size postcard from Johnny, sent from a personal appearance tour he was on in Hawaii! It made my day!
A Treasure to Me
by M. Stacey Shaffer (site administrator & DVD team member)
I remember watching The Rifleman reruns occasionally growing up, and I was always drawn to the sensitive son and his relationship with his father, rather than the gun play. My Johnny Crawford story really began the summer of 1985, when my friend’s grandmother gave us her season tickets to a matinee of Of Mice And Men at the San Diego Old Globe Theatre. I remember looking through the program and being pleasantly surprised that Johnny Crawford was in the cast. The play was very good, with Johnny effectively menacing and spoiled as Curley.
In late 2011, I started watching MeTV, revisiting some favorite programs from my childhood. The many showings each week of The Rifleman drew me in, and I started doing research on the cast and guest actors. Soon I joined the forum at RiflemanConnors.com and started listening to Johnny’s dance band recordings. I made one of my first YouTube videos using screen captures of Mark McCain, set to the Del-Fi recording of “Treasure.” I emailed the link to Johnny, and he sent me a delightful reply:
“It’s so very sweet of you to make this video of that young man I used to know. He still visits me once in a while. Thank you. You’re an angel to me.” — Johnny
Once I’d seen every episode of The Rifleman on repeat, I decided to check out older brother Bobby’s western, Laramie. I enjoyed it very much, especially the early seasons. I joined Robert Fuller’s fan group, making lots of new friends around the world.
In March 2013, I attended Festival of the West in Arizona, where Johnny, Bobby, and Robert Fuller were celebrity guests. I liked Bobby immediately and didn’t want to leave his table. Johnny was so sweet, taking such care over what to write on the 8×10 I got from him: “You’re a treasure to me.” Both he and Bobby signed the Del-Fi 45 record of “Good Buddies” that I brought, which I have in a frame here on my desk. What I especially enjoyed was watching Bobby watch Johnny interact with fans at their adjoining tables. Johnny always had a long line, and Bobby always had a delightful smile, clearly enjoying the attention his brother was receiving.
I feel very fortunate to now be part of the Johnny Crawford Legacy team, working with Johnny’s family and friends. He inspired my first efforts at video making, and now I can use those skills (much improved, I hope) to help him now.
Johnny Crawford: Then and Now
by Wendy Byers (from Michigan)
The Rifleman was on TV when I was 7 years old. “That was then!” I was glued to the black & white screen as Mark would ride his horse, do chores, eat candy, and sometimes get into mischief, as most boys do! My eyes were on him on TV, teen magazines, comic books, and even a hardcover The Rifleman book. My bedroom had pictures plastered with Johnny!! Then my first Johnny Crawford record album was given to me as a gift from my mom, who loved the Big Bands from the 30s and 40s. Then another album and another!! Blasting Johnny on my old Arvin record player non-stop! Scrap books, singing with Johnny, impatiently waiting for the next teen magazines to be in stores—I had a great time loving Johnny! That was then.
Now I’m 69 years old, still love Johnny, but instead of teen magazines photos of him on my walls, I hang kids and grandkids….BUT….I have taken photos of pictures using my phone of—you know it—Johnny! So I have a nice photo collage of Johnny, Charlotte, Nance, and Bobby on my wall that I have taken from the internet. Plus I still blast my CDs of Johnny on my CD player! “This is now!”
I enjoy the Facebook groups for Johnny and wait patiently for Charlotte’s update each week. Yes, this is now. It is wonderful to see Johnny in different movies and TV shows. Johnny is a wonderful actor, from The Mickey Mouse Club, Wagon Train, The Big Valley, and all the many other shows he has been in. His Orchestra was and is a treat, and he’s so handsome in tails and top hat! I’m praying every day for Johnny and his lovely family. My husband Donnie is also in a nursing facility, for dementia, so I can certainly relate to Charlotte’s love and pain for her beloved Johnny. When I send Donnie cards…Johnny gets one, too!
❤️ Thank you for giving me the chance to share my then and now stories. Wendy Byers, a loyal friend and fan ❤️
Meeting My Hero
by Carl Leffel (from Georgia)
Growing up at Fort Benning, Georgia, allowed us kids to always get into everything. I do remember one day while delivering TV guides to my many customers, I saw a large group of people in a field next to our house. I rode my bicycle down to several MPs (Military Police), who had the road blocked, and asked what was going on. The one MP told me they were making a training film and Johnny Crawford was there. JOHNNY CRAWFORD!!—that was Mark McCain from The Rifleman and one of my heroes. After telling the MPs how much I liked Mr. Crawford and how I used to play his character while we were in Germany from 1959-1962, he ask me if I would like to meet him…I almost wet my pants when he said that. The MP got on the radio and after a few minutes, he walked over to me and said, “Leave your bike and lets go.”
We walked across the field, and I can assure you I was scared to death. Because of my father’s job, I had met generals, Senators and representatives of congress, but nobody as famous as Johnny Crawford. In my eyes he was a national hero. I remember walking to the crowd of folks when…wait…there he was. I could see him…he was right there. Maybe 50 feet or so. I froze, not wanting to mess this up. The MP walked up to another gentleman and they talked, then the MP turned and motioned for me to come over. Now we were only 10-15 feet apart, and he looked toward me. WOW…Johnny Crawford. He was in uniform, and after a few minutes, someone walked over to him and they talked. After a second or two, he came over to me and stuck out his hand. I could not believe it, my hero Mark McCain was going to shake my hand. He asked me my name, and I told him and told him everything I could remember about him. I finally asked him for his autograph but all I had was the money I was collecting for my TV Guides, so I asked him to sign a dollar bill. I remember him snickering that I would spend the dollar. (I was 12) and I promised I never would.
And I never did, but when my Mom moved from Columbus, Georgia, to Austin, Texas, in the early 80s, the dollar, along with my entire coin collection, was stolen along with many other items. I was devastated at the loss, but I still had the memory. That will never be taken.
The day I met Sergeant Crawford has remained with me all of my life, and that day helped change my life. Because of that meeting and the fact my father was in the military, I entered the Army on 11 September 1972 and also served a tour at Ft Benning, GA. Many times while stationed there, I would drive past the area where we lived and the field where I met Johnny Crawford. I finished my military career on 1 October 1992 and have Johnny Crawford and my Dad to thank for my wonderful career.
I loved the character of Mark McCain and dreamed of the relationship he had with his father Lucas. That relationship was something I never had with my dad, and I used to play the role of Mark McCain in order to have that relationship. Thank you, Johnny Crawford.
In The Army
by Tom Hervey (From Rosemead, Los Angeles County, California, and now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area)
Johnny and I were inducted into the US Army at the same time on 21 December 1965, in Los Angeles. We were flown on the same airplane to El Paso, Texas. We went through Basic Training together, along with others, at Fort Bliss in Company D, 3d Battalion, 2d Brigade. I was in the 1st Platoon and Johnny was in the 2nd Platoon. Many of us were away from home for the very first time in our lives. Our actual training commenced on 27 December 1965 and was completed on 19 February 1966.
On Christmas Day, Johnny put on an “official” show for all of us. From what I can recall, Johnny put on two shows in order to accommodate everyone. I believe that those who got to attend were just those of us basic training recruits plus the cadre, top brass and their VIPs. I think Johnny spoke some about himself but mostly he sang songs that he had recorded and a couple of Christmas carols.
I never felt Johnny was treated any differently than the rest of us. Johnny had to go through the same training as the rest of us did. He pulled K.P. like everyone else did. He had his Sergeant yelling at him like I had my Sergeant yelling at me to do better. About half of our Company’s recruits were from the L.A. area and the other half were from Colorado, mostly the Denver area. There were a couple of guys in our outfit that I had gone to school with but I don’t know if there were anyone that Johnny knew prior to being inducted into the Army.
I do remember that Johnny had volunteered for the Draft. If you knew you were going to be drafted at some point, you could talk to your local draft board and kind of work out a time deal for when that was to occur. The reasoning behind that was that Draftees only had to serve two years actively as opposed to those who enlisted in the Regular Army who had to serve three years. Just about all the recruits in our outfit were Draftees. Back in that time there was not a “lottery number” that we all came under. That didn’t come about until December of 1969, after Johnny and I, plus many, many others, had fulfilled our obligations.
After our training was completed, Johnny was sent on his way and I was sent on my way, which included a tour in Vietnam.
I salute you, Johnny Crawford, for your service to our nation…